A few years ago, a restaurant in Mumbai put out an advertisement claiming it would deliver pizza by air, using drones. Not surprising at the time, the police swiftly fired a regulatory missile and shot down the idea of drones flying about in civilian airspace.
Cut to 2022, India has not only opened up the skies with a slew of liberalised rules, it's also announced performance-linked incentives (PLIs) with an outlay of Rs 120 crore for 23 drone companies to soar higher.
So, what changed?
The acknowledgement of the fact that, besides helping the Armed Forces with border surveillance and lethal strikes, drones can do a lot more.
The government itself is using drones to map rural land holding under the Svamitva Scheme. The ICMR is conducting a drone study to collect sputum samples from remote areas to fight tuberculosis.
With the eye in the sky, it's becoming easier for forest guards to catch poachers, for farmers to monitor crop health, and for e-commerce companies to airdrop groceries.
By 2030, India’s drone industry could hit a market size of $23 billion and capture 25 percent of the global drone market.
We can get a sense of the swift take-off by looking at the rapid growth of just the 23 companies under the PLI scheme. Their combined annual turnover more than tripled from Rs 88 crore in FY21 to over Rs 300 crore in FY22.
To discuss the road ahead for the drone industry, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Founder & CEO of Garuda Aerospace; Rama Krishna, CEO of EndureAir and Ankit Mehta, Co-founder & CEO of ideaForge.
Watch video for more.